As the Phillies look to the final two months of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg says he will attempt to get as much playing time for a bunch of his players.
In fact, Sandberg says there is still plenty of time for players -- namely Ryan Howard and Dom Brown -- to salvage their subpar seasons.
Howard, whose struggles in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup have been well-documented and are entering the realm of historical futility, will get a chance to turn it around. In fact, Howard will get the chance against lefty starters, too, including the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel.
“I’m trying to give him an opportunity to get at-bats and get hot and get going,” Sandberg said before Tuesday night’s series opener against Houston. “Sometimes the remedy is to face a left-handed pitcher where the left-handed hitter has to focus on staying up the middle and left-center field, so hopefully that goes a long way.”
Batting just .215 with a .664 OPS, Howard doesn’t have a hit since last Wednesday and has one hit in his last 25 at-bats. Though he recently sat out of three straight games in order to make some needed adjustments, Howard’s struggles persist.
“He continues to make adjustments and look for a comfort zone in the at the plate,” Sandberg said.
“The reason for the rest was for him to make adjustments, which he continues to search for and continues to do, so hopefully he gets it going.”
Still, Sandberg has been unable to work in Darin Ruf at first base and the slugger has just six starts since July 22. Nevertheless, with Brown still recovering from a case of tonsillitis, Ruf is getting a start in left field on Tuesday night.
“I want the best for best players and for Ryan Howard to get going and for Darin Ruf to get some at-bats,” Sandberg said.
Still time for Brown?
Like Howard, Brown has struggled to produce anything close to his All-Star-caliber numbers from a season ago. Batting just .231 with a .281 on-base percentage, Brown’s power appears to have waned, too. Since the 2013 All-Star Game, Brown has eight home runs.
Brown hit 12 homers in May of 2013 alone.
Perhaps Brown is looking for that one hot month to give his stats some shine.
At this point, it’s all he can cling to for the rest of 2014.
“I've always been in this spot, so it's not that big a deal to me,” Brown said. “Going out there, playing my game, playing hard, doing whatever I gotta do for the team. That's all I'm here for. I'm here to win, not for finances, that's just icing on the cake. I enjoy the game, I enjoy being here.
“I've been down this road for three or four years now, so it's not nothing new to me.”
Though he hasn’t been pounding the homers like last season, Brown takes solace in the fact he has 50 RBIs in 103 games. With a hot final two months of the season, perhaps he can pad those totals a bit.
“Oh yeah, for sure, I've got 50 RBIs. End up at 80 or 90, that'd sound great,” Brown said. “Like I said I'm trying to do my little part for the team, whatever that is. I don't know if I'm platooning or what, but whenever Ryno calls on my name I'll be ready to go.”
Lee all but finished?
Sandberg said lefty starter Cliff Lee will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury on his left elbow sometime in the near future. An exam on Saturday did not reveal much, according to the manager.
However, since the injury is similar to the one Lee experienced in May, Sandberg sees the clock running out on 2014 for Lee.
“Since it’s a recurrence and the last one took two months, that’s the reality. That’s the reality here,” Sandberg said.